Keeping onsite associates in the fold is a challenge for many apartment communities, regardless of the economy. The jobs are demanding and can be quite stressful. The National Apartment Association has said the average multifamily property has an employee turnover rate of 32 percent.
This challenge has intensified in recent years as a booming labor market has pushed unemployment rates to historic lows and given onsite associates plenty of opportunities to job-hop. In this environment, recruiting, building and maintaining a high-functioning team can be a tall order. It is more than possible, however, especially when operators make use of cutting-edge technologies to support their teams and make their jobs efficient.
In fact, the use of sophisticated technology provides a major advantage in recruiting the right talent, as today’s job seekers expect to work at a company that’s using the latest solutions to help their employees with their jobs. With that in mind, below are some suggestions for how operators can utilize technology to build and keep the right teams in today’s environment.
Don’t skimp on onboarding
Given the fact that many communities are short-staffed these days, it can be tempting to immediately throw new associates into the deep end of the pool from day one. Resist this temptation.
New hires need a couple of days of informative onboarding before they begin their onsite positions. They need to go through Fair Housing education, learn how to properly utilize a community’s property management systems and cutting-edge technologies, and learn more about their specific responsibilities and how their jobs fit into the bigger picture. There’s nothing worse than a new hire who can only warm a seat on their first day onsite. The right onboarding process prevents this from happening.
When explaining the need for onboarding, I’ve been known to tell onsite teams, “If you’ve been 30 days without this position being filled, you can last two more days.”
Provide robust ongoing training
Once an associate begins their job, they should have access to a strong on-demand program to continue to hone and grow their apartment skills and knowledge, especially when it comes to using their critical technology tools.
An associate typically isn’t regularly going to have a couple of hours to go through a new lesson. But bite-sized (meaning 30 minutes or less) videos or online training modules are a great way for team members to continue to develop and become more confident in their roles while still handling their day-to-day responsibilities.
These online learning management systems also offer dashboards that allow operators to instantly see where associates are in their learning path, which is an invaluable technology for managing their development and understanding why they may be facing certain performance issues.
Invest in team-facing technology
It’s easy to think about residents first when it comes to adopting emerging technologies, but operators also need to think about solutions that will make their associates’ jobs more efficient and better position them to succeed. One example of this is an iPad leasing app that allows associates to get to know visiting prospects and make note of their preferences while sitting in a casual social area or touring a community instead of sitting behind a desktop computer in the leasing office. The engaging experience can make it more likely to convert prospects.
Mobile technology also gives associates instant access to all the information they need about their community and its available apartment homes, so they don’t have to carry uncomfortable binders on tours or return to the leasing office after the tour is over to look up information.
Talk (and listen) to your associates
Whenever there’s turnover at your communities, it’s important to talk with the remaining team members about what’s going on. We have to take time to explain the turnover, good or bad, to our teams.
Otherwise, an unfortunate ripple effect can take place. Associates can be left to wonder, “What happened? Am I the next out the door? Do I need to start looking for a job?” Team members will always appreciate the transparency.
By the same token, a good way to promote associate retention is to give team members a voice. Let them know they can provide their feedback and concerns, and let them know their perspectives will be taken seriously. Asking for your associate’s opinions and ideas, putting them into practice when you can, and then celebrating those successes can have a powerfully beneficial effect on associate morale and encourage team members to remain within your organization.
I remember an onsite associate, inspired by an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress,” pitching our team on hanging floor plans on a clothing rack in the leasing office so that he could show them to prospects in a unique way. He was so energized by the chance to put his idea into play, and I bet he leased 10 apartments because of the enthusiasm he was feeling for his job.
Joe Melton is vice president of marketing and management support services at The Morgan Group.